While working 9 to 5 at the accountancy firm, an extra task from the management didn’t seem quite a ‘nice surprise’ for Sarah Rose. It just seemed like another chunk of work that departed her from 5 PM, the time when she could finally leave the office and forget about her job till the next morning.
Years later, thanks to that extra task, we see Sarah Rose as a successful luxury branding creator and business owner.
We asked Sarah what she had to compromise to transition from the steady regular income, why she decided to create luxury branding, what her social media and sales strategy is, and why working with female entrepreneurs brings her the biggest joy.
THIF: What became a game-changer for your mindset and gave you a clue that you should detach from the corporate world?
I worked first in an engineering office doing administrative work. Then, the 2008 recession hit so I had to find a new job. I got another admin job at an accountancy firm, first working on reception, then I went up the highest I could to be the personal assistant for one of the partners. I didn’t really have any vision of what I wanted to do with my life. No clear goals for my future. One day at the accountancy firm, I was asked to create a letterhead design for a client, which was really random to me and I was annoyed that I had to do something that wasn’t in my job description. I just wanted to do my work and go home at 5 PM.
But once I started designing (in Word!) I had so much fun. I created 2 design concepts for the client, as well as 2 logo designs. The client loved the design and even gave my boss a raving testimonial. It was then that I enrolled in design college. I worked full-time and studied 2 nights per week at night time.
THIF: Was it hard leaving a steady job with the steady salary? Which are the pros and cons of each choice – a steady job vs. own business?
Of course, it’s hard jumping into the unknown after having a steady, regular income. But you know what they say, you’ll never know unless you try! Personally, I was really lucky because I had my parents’ support. I moved back home and had the luxury of free rent for a while while I built my business.It was a hard time and clients were sporadic, and I did have to get a part-time job for some income, but I wouldn’t change it for the world when I think about how far I’ve come. I’m traveling the world and have the freedom a normal job never gave me. So that meant a couple years not earning much to get to where I am now.
I think we should always look at the grander scheme of things, otherwise, your day-to-day tunnel vision can get you a bit down. They don’t call it “building your empire” for nothing. If you’re in it to make quick cash, you may be disappointed. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I know you freelanced for a while before launching a business. How long was this phase and where did you look for the clients?
My journey was definitely not a quick one, and I’ve heard about quick journeys and used to feel a tinge of jealousy, but we never hear of the long journeys.
I’ve heard about quick journeys and used to feel a tinge if jealousy, but we never hear of the long journeys.
I began freelancing as soon as I began studying graphic design. So I’d do jobs for friends and family and slowly began to charge for my time. I freelanced on the side of my full-time job for about a year or two. I became so stressed and overwhelmed when the freelance gig got busy; I was working during lunch hour and at nights. Now that I look back knowing that I was severely undercharged and I was so burnt out, I wouldn’t put myself through that again. But if that didn’t happen I wouldn’t be where I am today.
My clients were all word of mouth referrals, so that was amazing! They eventually dried up though, so being active on social media and updating my website portfolio was a must. I got a few inquiries through my website and I believe that was due to my blogging efforts and also Google’s location when I registered my Google account ensuring that my site would be found locally searching for a graphic designer in the area.
THIF: Which steps did you take to start an actual business? Amid from registering the company, what were your must-do steps – a business plan, a marketing strategy, a website?
I created my social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram) as well as my website. I think in this day and age you absolutely need an online presence. You just have to keep up with the times to be seen and remain relevant.
I actually paid a guy on Upwork to write my weekly blogs which I think worked well for SEO. Marketing is super time-consuming so his price was well worth it.I now write my own blogs because I want my brand’s tone of voice to shine through. His blogs were good at the time, but a bit boring (haha). It didn’t sound like me. I leverage my content on the website, social media, and email marketing.
I would say to anyone starting in business to always put out really good, valuable content. It positions you as the expert in your field. Being consistent with your efforts will eventually mean you’ll get noticed and gain traction. Consistency is the key.
I never had a marketing strategy, I was really lucky to have word of mouth referrals but they do eventually dry up, so I’ve realized the importance of marketing. It’s never too early to start. I hired a coach last year who specializes in sales and marketing so she taught me a whole lot about Facebook ads and sales funnels.
Now I have Facebook ads set up offering a freebie aka “lead magnet”. The user then is taken through my sales funnels which is basically a series of automated emails set up through Mailerlite (you can use MailChimp too – they’re both free). This strategy builds my email list (which is gold – start building your email list up now) in the background.
Marketing is a long-term game I’ve learned, so start now. Remain consistent. You won’t regret it.
THIF: Why did you decide to create specifically luxury branding? How is luxury different from the normal/casual one? Is it just the price or the way it looks?
I think the majority of business owners want to charge premium prices. I mean who wouldn’t?
When I started my business, my branding was not luxurious. I was charging cheap hourly rates. I was at the opposite end of the ‘high end’ spectrum.
When I rebranded to look more “high end”, I was able to charge premium prices. Branding really sets the tone of your whole business. If a business has cheap looking/ DIY branding, it doesn’t make sense if they’re charging high-end prices. There’s a disconnection there which results in a confusing branding.
The clients I work with have usually been in business for a few years already and want to undergo a re-branding to look more modern, professional and high- end. This results in price increases. So that’s why I chose to specialize in luxe branding.
THIF: You are positioning yourself as someone who creates brands for women. Why is this your position, why specifically women.
I just love working with women, we are such emotional beings. When I work with women, they’re always so happy and excited and over the moon with what I come up with for their brands, and that just makes me so excited to experience their happy emotions when they see their dream brand come to life.I still do business with men, but the joy for me lies with women. Women treat their businesses as their babies, it creates a super meaningful experience for me.
THIF: What are the specifics of working with women, in your experience?
I have a really clear process and I find that women appreciate it more than men (not sure why). When someone sends me an inquiry, I get them on a call over Zoom and I hear the client out about what’s working and what’s not in their business. If they’re starting a business, I ask about their vision for the future.
We chat for about half an hour to an hour – people love the time and attention I give them on this call, everyone wants to be heard. Plus, I need to hear about the business to see how I can help them.
If the client wants to work together, I send them the necessary documentation to get started, and they book another call with me to go over the answers to a questionnaire I send them. This is what I call the discovery phase. I take the time to really dive deep into their business and their brand and how they envision the future of their brand.
The client then leaves me for a few weeks to research, sketch, and design some brand identities for them.
Women treat their businesses as their babies, it creates a super meaningful experience for me.
I am super clear about timeframes and communications. I get their feedback, we make any necessary changes, then we launch.
I have found that having a clear process creates trust with clients, as well as a mutual respect. And my discovery phase and taking the time to really get to know my clients and their needs has resulted in a 100% satisfaction rate for my clients, which is amazing. I give credit to the discovery phase for my 5-star reviews and testimonials.
THIF: You have collected over 5K followers on Instagram. What is your secret to collecting such big following? As a graphic designer, what content do you recommend to post on social media, to attract clients?
To be honest, I made big mistake years ago (actually it was a friend who did this as a gift for me), they bought me a bunch of followers. I think it was around 1,000 followers. I would never advise anyone to buy followers. Numbers don’t matter, it doesn’t mean cash in the bank, and it looks silly having thousands of followers and a few likes on your images. Being a designer, my work is super visual so I try to post my design work, as well as branding tips. I’ve started to mix it up and be more real now with my posts by introducing some lifestyle posts that talk about my traveling ventures or what’s happening in the business.
THIF: You’re promoting an e-book on Instagram. Why did you decide to write it and what are the main steps for writing it?
So the e-book is my lead magnet or the free opt-in. It’s a free, valuable guide to generate leads aka names and email addresses to build up my email list. I then send emails to my email list, and if anyone is interested in working with me and likes my stuff, I work on converting them into paying clients.
The e-book was easy to create. I first wrote the content, then designed the e-book in my branding – so using my fonts, color palette, and tone of imagery. This creates a really pretty, easy to read guide that introduces women in business to me.
I have pretty much put the e-book everywhere – on my website, my Facebook page, the link in my Instagram bio, Pinterest.
THIF: As somebody having a job that demands high creativity levels, what do you recommend as the ways to reboot your creativity?
Travel. I absolutely love traveling and use it as an excuse to boost creativity. It definitely works! Often, creatives get “creative block”, and what helps gain inspiration and ideas is removing myself from my laptop and phone to get out in the fresh air. Regular breaks and rest bring about inspiration quicker, rather than forcing creativity to happen in front of a computer. I have burnt out way too many times doing this, now I just let the creative process happen naturally.
THIF: What does “hustle” mean to you as a female entrepreneur?
It used to have more of a negative meaning to me, like being stressed, always on the go to get work and get paid.
Now that I’ve worked on my mindset and dropped having to hustle, I see it as having courage, believing in yourself, having the grit and determination to get out there and not give up until you’ve reached your goal. However many times you fail, it just means you’re closer to that win!I no longer believe that business has to be hard. We are often told that money doesn’t grow on trees and you have to work super hard to be successful. But I’m a believer that you can run a business on your own terms. It has to be enjoyable sometimes! Otherwise, there’s no reason for me to do it.